Year for the Planet Year 2 Week 2: Decluttering Skeletons in the Family Closet

Year for the Planet is a campaign to make better choices for the planet. 2017 was when I fixed my eating habits. This year, 2018, is where I deal with my clothing choices.

I began this year with an end: my little brother got married and moved out. I was also greeted with a grim challenge: my dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and went with my mom to New York for treatment.

This is a sustainability blog, so to cut to the chase, I’m alone in the house and this allows me to accomplish one thing I’ve been meaning to do in more than a decade of coming back to Manila in between fellowships and residencies—clean the house of a family of hoarders.

Hoarding seems to be an issue of culture, of which I thankfully outgrew thanks to many years of having to travel with two pieces of luggage. Each plane ticket came with a cycle of letting go. But each time I come home, I am greeted with a pile of unused stuff. I wish I could get my family (actually, the entire country) to read all the books on Marie Kondo, Swedish death cleaning, and minimalism, except that I know they’d likely toss them in a pile, unopened. And so with this magical moment of a nomadic artist being the boss of an actual house, I gleefully clap my hands. Now’s my chance!

Why is decluttering important when it comes to sustainability? A better way to answer this is to discuss why it’s dangerous to accumulate so many things in the context of where I’m from. In emerging economies, which are usually former colonies, I have observed a form of colonial mentality where consumption is seen as an achievement, with people wanting to cover themselves in foreign (usually Western) brands, as though it covers the trauma from generations past and that they, too, can be like their former oppressors. It’s not unusual for me to observe a group of people who work in the likes of call centers, multi-national organizations, and banks who vent about their overseas clients that do business in developing countries because of cheap labor. These workers spend not an insignificant amount of their free time and salary buying foreign goods and eating the latest imported food trends, thus continuing a cycle of neocolonialism and need for motivational speeches on YouTube.

But alas, until enlightenment occurs, the easiest thing I can do for now for the sake of my sanity is to do all that’s left of my brother’s laundry (Six loads and counting, baby! This is just part 1!), because of course grown men in this part of the world cannot operate a washing machine. I do this gladly, because holy crap, the house has so much more space with better feng shui. I want my aging parents to be able to have a more pleasant and hygienic retirement, so the next time I fly away, I no longer have to worry of them disappearing in a pile of unused designer clothes, wondering where their eyeglasses went. I’ve dug up a lot of strange things which deserves another post altogether. See you next time!



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